The Birmingham Jewish Federation Annual Campaign started a little later this year than in years past.

This was intentional due to the successful Israel Emergency Campaign that our Federation conducted this past summer in connection with Israel's military operation in Gaza. Funds were raised to address humanitarian needs in Israel stemming from the conflict.

Since our community responded so generously, raising $500,000, one of the top emergency campaigns per capita in the country, our 2015 Annual Campaign leaders felt it was prudent to wait a few months before going out and asking donors for contributions to the Annual Campaign. This strategy has proved wise and is paying off as increases at every level of giving are coming in almost daily.

Our goal is to exceed last year's total of $2,400,000. Already we are at $800,000 and on track to achieve our objective. Despite the delayed start, we continue to find donors compelled to increase their annual BJF giving because of the challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people.

Among these are rising anti-Semitism, especially in Europe and on some American college campuses; Israel's growing security and diplomatic predicaments; the continued and frightening growth of radical Islam through terror groups such as ISIS; and general upheaval in the world in places such as Ukraine which has a large Jewish population. The BJF, through our activities and the global agencies we fund, is involved with all of these challenges.

The 2015 BJF Campaign has certainly been helped by a dynamic leadership team: Campaign Chair Hilary Gewant, and her two Co-Chairs, Sheryl Kimerling and Pam Ruttenberg. Hilary, who is in her early 40s and a recipient of The BJF's Joanie Plous Bayer Young Leadership Award, is the first in her generation to take on this role. Already, donors have been inspired by her energy and passion.

Sheryl, a well-known community volunteer respected throughout Birmingham, is also a member of the Executive Committee of Jewish Federations of North America, and her national profile and knowledge have been important pieces of this campaign given the global challenges we face. Pam, a long-time generous supporter of many Jewish causes, has taken on one of the most important roles in any campaign -- overseeing thanking our donors.

In addition to raising funds for the agencies and programs that are so important to our community, this year's campaign is seeking to engage young people and reach new donors in innovative ways. These efforts are broadening our organization's impact and will better prepare us for the future; we already are having much success in these areas.

We are confident that we will reach our goal, but since we still rely on the continued generosity of our community, new gifts and increases will be critical. Only with that enhanced support from donors at all levels can we continue to have an immense impact locally, nationally, and globally everyday in so many ways.

To make a pledge to the 2015 Annual Campaign, contact BJF Assistant Executive Director Daniel Odrezin at DanielO@bjf.org or (205) 803-1511. To donate online, click the link below.